In Morocco, 26 per cent of the sexual abuse cases handled by the Ministry of Justice involved minors. Sexual abuse against children is generally committed by someone known to the child and takes place at home, at school and in the streets, according to recent studies.
Other forms of sexual violence against children include sex trafficking and child marriage. Morocco is a destination of sexual tourism and child prostitution. Child marriage is also increasing at an alarming rate. In 2013, there were 35,152 instances of child marriage, a 91.6 per cent increase from 2004. Sexual violence leaves children with catastrophic physical and psychological scars and can lead to a lifetime of disadvantage.
The taboo attached to sexual violence means many will feel compelled to remain silent about the crime for fear of being stigmatized or even blamed. Many cases are rendered invisible and many perpetrators are left to re-offend. When cases are brought to light, public institutions and civil society organisations are ill-equipped to handle them. There is no harmonised rehabilitation mechanism in place and no holistic process to support child victims. Even identifying abuse has been a challenge.
Association Meilleur Avenir pour Nos Enfants (AMANE) was established in 2009 and is an initiative of a group of human rights activists who were concerned by the extent of the phenomenon of sexual violence against children.
The association is mainly supported by ECPAT (France and Luxembourg), an organisation that aims to tackle child prostitution, child pornography and the trafficking of children for sexual purposes.
AMANE works to combat sexual violence against children by building the capacity of people and organisations working in the field of child protection in Morocco through sensitisation campaigns and advocacy activities. With offices strategically located in the administrative city of Rabat, AMANE is able to build and nurture relationships with the government to help secure a mandate to implement programmes regionally.
AMANE runs a capacity building programme for institutions and NGOs working with children. Its child protection committee works to develop commonly agreed procedures between government departments, social workers, hospitals, local NGOs and counsellors. It also runs a self-protection programme to teach children to keep themselves safe from sexual abuse. In 2015, Amane reached 1,270 people, including 962 children.
Photo: Zahrin Kahlo